Agreement question

Fri Oct 18 17:14:50 UTC 2002

Jesse Sheidlower asks about subject-verb agreement:

  >> The sentence was, "The stories the press tell are shaped not by a
  >> 'liberal agenda' or a 'right wing conspiracy' but by..." This sentence
  >> was objected to on the grounds that _press_ is singular and thus it
  >> should read, "The stories the press tells are shaped..."
  >> This objection seems to be correct.

It is.

  >> However, the original, "The stories the press tell are shaped..." is
  >> _not_ jarring to me... Certainly one would never write, "The stories
  >> Smith tell are shaped..." ... I'm thinking that it might be the
  >> influence of the -s ending of _press,_ which, though not a plural
  >> ending, might suggest plurality enough that "The stories the press
  >> are shaped..." doesn't seem obviously wrong.
  >> Any thoughts?

I think you're mentally substituting the word *media*, a plural noun that
is often used in such constructions rather than "press" and that *would*
require "tell." The word *media* is--rightly--used these days to refer to
those disseminating the news, since "press" suggests strictly print.
(Smarter PR people have long used "news release" rather than "press


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